The idea of students attending classes just four days a week sends chills through some parents and educators.
But as economy troubles deepen, no idea is off-limits for beleaguered Florida school districts. In South Florida, Broward County is considering a four-day week for its high schools that could save the district $10 million a year. Could a four-day school week be in Manatee County's future?
Dan and Michelle Jeffs are parents of Elijah 8, a straight-A student at Rowlett Elementary School in Bradenton. Michelle is a postal clerk and Dan a sales rep. "Kids need more time in the classroom, not less," says Michelle.
"It's a terrible idea," says Manatee School Board Superintendent Tim McGonegal. "For our students to be competitive worldwide they need to be in school more hours than they are now. Schools are the safest places for our children."
All studies of juvenile offenses conclude the prime time for teen crime is 2 to 6 p.m. In the nation, 7 out of 10 kids have at least one or both parents working after school hours. More than 14 million children are unsupervised by parents after school hours, according to data by the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance, some using the freedom to make bad choices.
"With a shorter school week there is a propensity for some teenagers to break the law," says Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube. "There would have to be alternative places for kids, and that might just be as costly as keeping our present school schedule."
A comparison of that cost per year: about $8,180 per student; about $20,000 per inmate.
Depressed property values cost Florida's schools $780 million. "In these tough economic times, everything's on the table," says Jim Pauley, principal of Braden River High School. "I realize the impact of less school would have on parents of young children. There would be day care issues they would have to deal with. We are here to educate our children, but everything in these tough times has to be considered."
Florida law requires 180 school days per year, the average school year in the United States. In a recent study of 43 countries, done by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 33 countries have school years longer than 180 days - some even 220 school days per year.
"A four-day school week is not a good idea," says Joe Miller, a parent and former Manatee County School Board member. "Maybe it might save money, but this is not what's best for our children."